Holidays and Regular Observances

What kind of religious calendar do Hindus observe?

Combining lunar months with seasons of the solar year, the Hindu calendar functions somewhat like the Jewish calendar. About every three years it inserts an extra month after a month with two new moons. Hindu lunar months vary from twenty-nine to thirty-two days. The names of the months, with the roughly corresponding Gregorian months in parentheses, are as follows: Chaitra (March/April), Vaishakha (April/May), Jyaistha (May/June), Asadhe (June/July), Shravana (July/August), Bhadrapada (August/September), Ashvina (September/October), Karttika (October/November), Margasivsa (November/December), Pansa (December/January), Magha (January/February), and Phalguna (February/March). Leap months take the name of the month preceding them.

For ritual purposes, each month is divided into its dark and light halves, with associated celebrations, and the moment of the full moon is a time of celebration each month. And some festivals and observances fall each year on the same solar date. Each year is likened to a day in the life of the deities, with the solar solstices symbolizing sunrise and sundown. In addition to the complexity introduced by the blending of solar and lunar reckonings, systems vary still further from region to region in India. Historically, the greater Hindu religious calendar has been so full that virtually every day some Hindu community has celebrated some feast somewhere in the subcontinent. Hinduism is not unlike Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions in that respect, except that the majority of the Christian religious feasts are those of saints, rather than of the deity as such. All of this makes for an immensely rich sense of the intersection of sacred times and places. Every day is appropriate for religious observance, and no one day of the week is set aside as an especially sacred time.


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